I have always had this notion that Marrakech is a magical place. So, having visited it, do I still think that?
As soon as we got through customs we queued up at the Bureau de Change in the airport since it is not possible to buy Dirhams outside Morocco. Oh, did I feel rich with almost 2,000 Dirham in my purse? Yes, of course! So, what did we do? We splashed out on a taxi to our accommodation rather than get the bus. Well, it was dark when we arrived! In fact, it took two taxis and quite a bit of walking around until we eventually found our accommodation. It’s a long story but it gave us an introduction to life in Marrakech, dodging mopeds that buzzed passed us in the night, smoke-filled skies from outdoor cooking, and what seemed to be orderly chaos.
Once we had met up with my friend’s friends and checked into our Riad, which was located off Bab Agnaou, we walked to the square (Djemaa el Fna) for some food. As we wandered around, we were greeted by all the traders we passed who were touting for business. There are a lot of food stalls to choose from. We ate at number 20, which is where I had my first truly Moroccan Vegetable Couscous. As it was February, it was a bit nippy sitting outside but it was great to be part of the hustle and bustle.
I had always wanted to stay in a place that had an inner courtyard so I was thrilled to spend a couple of nights in a riad. There is a downside to staying in a place in February that does not have a roof though, which is because it gets very cold at night. Thankfully, extra blankets were available!
For me, the magic of Marrackech was wandering around the squares and souks and chilling out at one of the many eateries people-watching. The souks seemed ever-ending and it was difficult to resist the temptation to buy from the many colourful and inviting stalls. ‘French, Italian, American?’, the traders called out as I walked past desperately trying to engage me in conversation. ‘Look and touch only is ok… good price for you’, they say as I browse. It makes me smile because they have definitely mastered the skill of soft-selling. They are very friendly, polite and do not harass people. They are patient and give you time to browse the variety of textiles, accessories and homeware on offer.
We booked ourselves in for an evening of indulgence at 8pm at a local Hamam. Having stored our possessions in a locker and wearing a dressing gown, paper G-string, and a pair of slippers, we were led into the steamiest room I have ever come across. I could barely see where to walk. We were in there for about 5-10 mins before being escorted by one of the female therapists. In that hour, practically every part of my body was exfoliated, massaged and washed. Not even my ears escaped! I felt so relaxed after that.
So, do I still think Marrakech is a magical place? Yes. Why? Because of its atmosphere: the music, people, seemingly endless souks and the smoke-filled skies at night.